Blended Learning in 2023: Definition, Benefits & 4 Concepts

Manfred Rump

Illustration of Blended Learning
VIDEO With english subtitles

Learning is not a singular event, but a continuous process - and it needs to be diversified! In this context, blended learning in particular offers many advantages for employees and companies. In this article, you will learn which 4 concepts L&D managers can use to implement it successfully.

Blended Learning – Definition

What is blended learning anyway and why is it useful?

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According to the mmb Learning Delphi 2020/2021 trend study, blended learning will play the most important role in digital learning in the future. Almost 80% of L&D and HR managers see the availability of different forms of learning as essential or very important to support learning initiatives.

In short, it's all in the mix. And that is also scientifically proven:

  1. Increasing motivation to learn: A study by Will Talheimer (2018) found that a blended learning approach significantly increased motivation of employees to learn compared to pure face-to-face instruction as well as pure e-learning.
  2. Increasing learning performance: The study "The Effectiveness of Blended Learning in Corporate Training Programs" by Clark & Mayer (2016) suggests that combining different learning formats, including e-learning and classroom training, leads to better learning outcomes.
  3. Improving collaboration: Azukas (2019) research concludes that a blended learning environment helps foster community and working relationships.

There are many different blended learning models, but they all share a few common characteristics:

  • The focus is on user-centered learningWith blended learning, employees have more control over their training. They can move at their own pace and learn in the way that works best for them.
  • Increased use of technologyBlended learning uses digital resources, which include online learning platforms and apps, i.e., LMS, LXP, and LEP, such as Masterplan.
  • A mix of face-2-face and online instructionEmployees have face-to-face contact with colleagues and instructors while learning, but they also have access to digital resources.

Blended learning benefits: 6 reasons to give it a try

Blended learning enables flexible learning through a combination of learning forms - aligned to the individual needs of the employees (whereby there are no learning types in the scientific sense!).

It combines digital forms of learning with face-to-face activities and thus the advantages of "both worlds".

Infographic on benefits of blended learning

There are six advantages for companies and employees:

1. Flexibility through user-centering

Blended learning gives companies the opportunity to train employees according to their needs. It focuses on the individual preferences of the learners.

This allows employees to learn very flexibly in terms of location, time, and forms of learning. The learner-centered approach affects a total of four dimensions, namely time (Time), place (Place), learning path (Path) and learning speed (Pace):

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2. Higher motivation through social learning

Social learning refers to the idea of learning together through social interaction. It can take place in groups or in one on one coaching as long as there is an exchange between the participants.

The idea was popularized as early as the 1970s by Albert Bandura's social learning theory. According to this theory, learning depends on the social context: We learn primarily by observing the behavior of others.

Blended learning can be a way to promote social learning, for example by stimulating discussion topics in an online course and holding the actual group discussion in a face-to-face meeting. In this way, all learners can contribute their experiences and benefit from the knowledge of others, which increases the learning effect for everyone.

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3. Better learning results against the forgetting curve

As early as 1885, the German psychologist Dr. Hermann Ebbinghaus stated that there is a learning curve in the acquisition of new information and skills. According to this, knowledge is definitely lost over time without sufficient support and practice.

So what can be done? In order to sustainably consolidate knowledge, it must be continuously repeated, relearned, reviewed and applied - this is exactly what the continuous method mix of blended learning addresses.

Infographic on the forgetting curve according to Ebbinghaus

Units for imparting knowledge can be combined with other units in which what has been learned has to be applied or presented, for example. In this way, new impulses are always set that reactivate the knowledge.

4. Improved communication

Blended learning facilitates communication among learners through the use of technology, even if they are not meeting in the same place at the same time. This is particularly practical in times of pandemic workplace dislocation.

On the one hand, this applies to synchronous exchange in learning groups and between learners and teachers, for example via video chat. On the other hand, however, digital learning platforms also offer learners and teachers the opportunity to exchange information asynchronously and thus quickly.

For example, if comprehension questions can be shared and clarified via forums or chats before a classroom activity, there is more time for the actual learning content during the activity itself. And if presentations, recordings or other information are available online afterwards, even those who are absent are brought up to the same level of knowledge.

In addition, a learning platform can serve as a collection of resources so that learners can continuously access learning materials, course schedules, and progress information.

5. Measurability of the effects of the improved learning process.

If digital learning is mapped via an e-learning platform, the learning success can be checked by the learners themselves via interactive feedback or tests/quizzes, for example, which supports self-directed learning.

In addition, teachers can then use quiz data, comments, and annotations from the learning platform to prepare the classroom activity, for example, in order to tailor subsequent learning content even better to the needs of the learners.

Through reporting, teachers also have access to the individual learning progress of learners and can assign individual tasks based on the identified strengths and weaknesses. This measurability of learning activities is, of course, ultimately also the basis for determining the return on learning from continuing education (German handbook).

6. Cost saving

Blended learning can reduce face-to-face events and thus save travel costs and organizational effort. Digital learning materials and tools are generally more cost-effective in terms of ROI of Learning than pure on-site training and enable a more efficient use of resources.

In short, knowledge transfer can be scaled via digital tools. Instead of multiple face-to-face presentations for different departments by one person, for example, the presentation can be recorded once and made available to everyone as a video.

The advantages of blended learning are obvious, but choosing the right methods requires a sure instinct. We show practical ways to combine e-learning sensibly with other forms of learning.

Blended Learning Concepts: 4 Learning Form Mixes with Examples

There is no universal recipe for blended learning. Every company has to find the right setup for itself. But fortunately, there are different blended learning approaches that L&D managers can use as a starting point for planning and conception.

Infographic in blended learning concepts

We would like to highlight four models that incorporate online and offline forms of learning in varying proportions, as well as asynchronous and synchronous face-to-face learning.

1. The À La Carte Model

Illustration of the à la carte model

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In the "à la carte" learning model, employees decide which learning formats they want to follow, depending on their needs. In the spirit of self-directed learning, they become agents of their own further development. All learning materials are freely available to them.

A teacher can take action as a contact:in for queries and regularly exchange information with learners on learning progress, either in face-to-face meetings, e.g. also via Zoom, or via the communication options of the learning platform itself.

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Excursion: Microlearning

The à la carte model is particularly well suited to integrating the learning form of microlearning and thus keeping employees' attention high during self-directed learning.

This is because it is a form of learning that uses particularly short learning content to teach specific skills or areas of knowledge.

Different studies come to the conclusion that knowledge transfer is more successful via short learning units. This learning content can take the form of short texts, videos, quizzes or other interactive formats.

Example "Masterplan Shorts"

An example of microlearning are the video lessons at Masterplan with a maximum length of 8 minutes. They cover a specific topic or skill that is relevant to the learner's work. By focusing on one specific topic per lesson, the learner can quickly and effectively absorb the required knowledge.

The "Masterplan Shorts" format even goes one step further from microlearning to "nanolearning": even shorter videos that do not build on each other in terms of content and thus represent small, compact "knowledge bites" that can be flexibly integrated into the learning experience.

2. The Flex Model / Online Driver

Infographic on the flex model

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This blended learning concept relies on digital delivery of training (e-learning). It is a combination of synchronous training (e.g. live webinars, peer-to-peer learning, etc.) and asynchronous learning units (e.g. self-study e-courses).

Teaching paths are individual and fluid. The depth, frequency, and type of instructor support varies depending on the implementation model.

Face-to-face sessions, e-learning courses, project work, and individual coaching can be combined to meet participants' learning needs and preferences.

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3. The Enriched Virtual Learning Model

Illustration of the enriched virtual learning model

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Enriched Virtual Learning is a form of blended learning that focuses on online-based learning but also includes face-to-face activities. There may be a face-to-face seminar or workshop at the beginning or end of a learning path.

On the one hand, to help employees apply the knowledge they have acquired and, on the other, to give them the opportunity to practice their skills in a real environment.

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It is conceivable, for example, to expand the à la carte model to an enriched virtual model and to enrich the individual learning paths with fixed appointments for a joint exchange or impulse lectures in presence.

Examples of Masterplan

1. Coffee xChange

At "Coffee xChange", participants exchange ideas on master plan content in a relaxed environment and share concrete ideas for their everyday work.

2. Lunch&Learn

At "Lunch & Learn", employees and managers meet regularly in various constellations to have lunch together - also digitally. They exchange ideas on master plan content and discuss how to apply what they have learned to their own work.

In this way, the relevance of the newly acquired knowledge is quickly crystallized and consolidated.

3. Expert-Session

Experts from their own companies bridge the gap between what they have learned at Masterplan and the real world. Participants learn first-hand how technologies and methods they learned from Masterplan are used in their own companies and gain valuable inspiration from this.

4. Masterplan Cinema

At "Masterplan Cinema", individual lessons are viewed together in a large group and then explored in depth in a panel discussion.

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4. The Rotation Model

Illustration of the rotation model

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The rotation model is a form of blended learning in which employees switch between different learning environments at set time intervals. These learning environments can be both online and offline and have different focuses.

In contrast to the Flex model, a rotation is less self-directed. The teacher determines when which learning group changes learning formats and stations.

There are several variants of the rotation model. These include:

  1. Station Rotation: Employees switch between different learning stations set up by teachers, e.g. frontal teaching, video course and group work.
  2. Flipped Classroom: Employees receive online-based teaching units. In the classroom training, the knowledge acquired is then applied by means of practical tasks.
  3. Individual Rotation: Employees go through individual learning plans developed by teachers. They then switch between different learning activities, such as online-based learning, face-to-face teaching, self-study.

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Blended Learning – Mixing for the Benefit of Employees

Blended learning can noticeably improve the learning experience in companies with the advantages mentioned. We have shown that there are many exciting models and how they can look in practice.

The most important thing: Don't get confused by the variety of options! Blended learning does not have to be complicated. The starting point for all considerations is always the needs of the employees.

Start small, launch pilot projects and listen to the feedback of your learners. This way you can keep improving concepts and prepare your employees perfectly for the future!

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Manfred Rump

Manfred Rump is Senior Content Marketing Manager at Masterplan. In the blog, he shares insights from his conversations with learning experts and highlights current learning trends in companies.
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